Alice (1988)

I’ve been seeking out obscure films for a good long while now, and sometimes you find an obscure film that is so unbelievably bizarre that you have to compel yourself to watch it, and it was more spectacular that I was perhaps prepared for. This of course is the bizarre Czechoslovakian retelling of Alice in Wonderland, as written and directed by Jan Švankmajer. His vision of the story rejected the conventional fairytale style of previous adaptations, and instead offers an amoral, surreal adventure that defies logic at every turn, and it’s an artistic triumph.

The plot of this film loosely follows the plot of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, following a bored Alice narrating herself in what appears to be a series of events that she has no idea how to navigate. She chases a taxidermically stuffed rabbit that suddenly comes to life, and finds herself working her way through Wonderland and its perils. Not many of the familiar characters can be found here, but the white rabbit, Mad Hatter, and the King and Queen of Hearts are here, recreated with what appear to be common household items. It’s also worth noting that the little girl who plays the role of Alice is also voice for all other characters in the film.

There’s only one actor in the whole film, but she manages to deliver a good performance as someone genuinely baffled by her surroundings, though surprisingly clever. The entire him is in Czech (sadly, without subtitles), but I didn’t care, because I didn’t watch this film for the acting. The plot is a very bizarre rendition of the familiar story of Alice, noticeably darker than fans of the old Disney adaptation might be used to, but it’s this unvarnished, sometimes nightmarish slant that makes it superior to all other adaptations if I must be frank.

Adding to this surrealistic twist is the film’s captivating use of stop motion animation, which fluidly creates the impression of a world that is removed from ours, one that comes to life and is ready to pounce on you at any moment. I should note that Švankmajer did not use miniature models to portray the special effects, which is rare and impressive considering the dearth of stop-motion feature films during the time the film was made. The film’s overall style of presentation and production design were also brilliant. The whole film reads like somebody took the book upon which every retelling Alice and Wonderland is based, ripped up the pages and turned it into a kind of abstract art.

And art is pretty much the best word to describe it. The Disney version of Alice was basically a familiar, but almost camp fairy tale that was saccharine to the point one could argue that it’s superficial. This version, however, says “to Hell with all that”, freeing Alice from the hypnotic spell of family-friendly sweetness, taking her to new realms without necessarily deviating heavily from the source material. In summation, it’s a classic of experimental fantasy, and I personally recommend it instead of any other version of Alice in Wonderland.

  • Score: 87%
  • Grade: A

Rogue One (2016)

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_posterI’m absolutely certain that Star Wars premieres at around Christmas time are going to become a yearly occasion, starting off with the previous Star Wars film. With Rogue One, which I think is very much on par with The Force Awakens, Disney proves that they can take great care of the franchise, much more so than George Lucas ever could. I think Rogue One represents an amazing amount potential for future standalone Star Wars films in the foreseeable future.

Rather than the obvious throwback plot of The Force Awakens, this film essentially carves its own niche between episodes III and IV, with a cast comprises almost entirely of new characters. The plot of this film concerns a new character named Jyn Erso, who bands together with a group of unlikely heroes with one goal – stealing the plans for the Death Star, the empire’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

Right off the bat I knew that Rogue One was going to be a different kind of Star Wars film, and I got that impression from the opening scenes. I expected the Star Wars title crawl, but instead we get the film’s prologue, which, if I must be honest, was a great way to start the film, and certainly quite a shake-up to say the least. I think the writing definitely improved, and I say this because the last film overtly attempted to recapture the spirit of the older films. Rogue One, meanwhile, even though it is replete with throwbacks, takes a rather surprising character-oriented approach, and I say this because I didn’t know anything about the newer characters, nor did I expect them to have any sort of chemistry.

I honestly thought that Jyn was going to be written as an overpowered Wonder Woman type character, but instead she’s kind of like a Han Solo type of character, and as that character she sort of outclasses Rey from the last film. However, I like the other characters much better, especially the film’s villain, Orson Krennic. To be honest, all the characters worked very well, with stellar performances across the board, and it was an even bigger treat to see Darth Vader once again.

As I would undoubtedly expect, the film is a special effects bonanza, and the film looks extremely well-polished. I also noticed that the film seems to have dedicated itself to recreating the look and feel of the original trilogy. Aside from the sound effects, many scenes look as if they’ve been lifted straight from the 70’s, and I think it’s amazing that Disney is apparently capable of producing this effect. Maybe we’ll see this in episode VIII and possibly in other films. I also noticed that two characters that appear here have had their likenesses from A New Hope digitally recreated and used for their appearance in Rogue One (for a moment I honestly thought that Grand Moff Tarkin was being portrayed by Charles Dance). That’s very impressive, though I kind of wonder to what extent this will be used in later films.

On the whole, Rogue One was a terrific cinematic experience, and I think it’s a great way of showing what Star Wars is capable of in the coming years. I predict that in a decade or two we’ll be looking back on Rogue One and last year’s film the same way we look back on the original trilogy today, with awe and enthusiasm.

  • Score: 94%
  • Grade: A

Westworld (1973)

westworld_ver2With the arrival of the Westworld TV series, I came across the original film, the quintessentially 70’s sci-fi gem that inspired it. I must lament the proclivity of our times for flashy, big budget reboots. After all, the Westworld TV series has barely even started, and the mainstream press treats it like the best thing since sliced bread, all while barely any credit is given where it’s due, which is such a shame because this film was one of the most innovative films in sci-fi before the genre give way to big budget braggadocio.

The premise is familiar, but nonetheless a curious one. The film is set in an adult-oriented luxury amusement park named Delos, known for its hyper-realistic simulation of themed environments – Roman World, Medieval World, and of course Westworld. Each world is populated by androids that bear an uncanny resemblance to humans, and are programmed to cater to the whims of Delos patrons. However, a computer virus begins to spread throughout the system, and the robots begin acting against their programming, and some even start killing patrons. All the while, two patrons find themselves being stalked by a robotic gunslinger (unofficially the film’s mascot).

At first the story seemed vapid and sluggish in pace, perhaps an apt representation of a Delos patron wallowing in a fantasy that comprises principally of chasing animatronic prostitutes aimlessly. Of course, this is just building suspense up to the point when things start going wrong in the park. Among a number of themes, the story addresses the kind of comfort humans have gotten used to thanks to advances in technology, and how that dependence will eventually come back to haunt them. That’s the most obvious theme, but also the most prevalent in Westworld, whose slowly paced yet multi-faceted plot seem to allow for the blending of elements from Western, sci-fi and thriller films.

The acting and characters aren’t necessarily the best part, but in a way the two patrons serving as the film’s two main protagonists illustrate the vapidity of instant leisure. One of them, played by James Brolin, seems chiefly concerned with satiating his own lusts, to the point where he would rather stay in a hotel than partake in a simulated gunfight, which I would argue would be more fun. The other one, played by Richard Benjamin, doesn’t seem at all fazed by the sex, and is more interested in the more hands-on pleasures that hyper-realistic simulation has to offer. The character stealing the show, of course, is Yul Brynner’s gunslinger, based on Brynner’s character in The Magnificent Seven. You first see him in much the same way as a typical Western gunslinger, but as the virus spreads, the gunslinger’s true nature as a cold, efficient mechanical assassin is revealed, and it becomes the driving force of the rest of the story. As the Terminator of the 1970’s, Brynner’s performance was brilliant, and he barely even talked.

For its time, Westworld looked impressive, and in terms of atmosphere, it had the feel of a classically chilled 70’s sci-fi film Alongside the old-fashioned practical effects, the film also made use of digital image processing, where the gunslinger’s point of view is represented as a pixellated world, and this adds to the cold atmosphere that Westworld conveys. A lot of older sci-fi films from the early 70’s might seem cheesy today, but not Westworld, with its uncanny realism and chilling pace. The TV series may yet take the original concept to places it hadn’t been before, but it will never replace the original classic. No reboot can or ever will.

  • Score: 85%
  • Grade: A

Coming to America (1988)

zamundaBefore I start this review I feel obligated to state that, because I’m starting university tomorrow, I’m taking a break from writing film reviews for an as yet undetermined amount of time, so that I can figure out how to balance this with life in uni. For now, I may as well pick a film that I’m very familiar with by now. I know I previously chided the film’s director because of the dreadful Spies Like Us, but his work tends to be hit or miss, with this film definitely being one of the hits.

Most of us know what Coming to America is about – the story of a young African prince who has grown weary of living a life where he has everything handed to him, and despises the thought of marrying a bride who has been chosen for him. Going against his father’s wishes, he decides to look for love in a poor part of America, hoping to meet someone who will love him for more than his money and status.

Essentially its a kind of pop fairy tale, but it’s told very well, and in the kind of light-hearted fashion that works best for it. The main thing that helped was that the story was backed with a riotously laugh-filled script. It also helps that the writers knew how to convey the kind of scenario that they wanted. At the beginning of the film, there’s a lot of emphasis on how grandiose the kingdom is. You get the impression that it’s pretty much paradise, if you’re prepared to have things done for you. Akeem had pretty much everything done for him at his home, in contrast to when he goes to Queens, New York, where he has most of his and his servant’s belongings stolen when they arrive. He does basically everything himself, and develops into an admirably affable character. Of course, towards the end is where the film resembles a more typical romance film, complete with a token happy ending, but it all worked well.

Coming to America’s main strength is its humorous acting, with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall taking the lead, and donning multiple roles in a practice that, after the film’s success, would come to be a staple of Murphy’s films. Murphy and Hall play all of their roles with exuberance and charismatic enthusiasm. It’s not just the main players that do well here. There’s a whole host of colourful characters who I felt had magnetic personalities – particularly from James Earl Jones and John Amos – perhaps due to the film’s style of humour (the film, after all, did have good writers behind it).

As far as presentation goes, it looked and sounded great, and in a way I think the two different settings perfectly reflect the kind of world the film’s main character transitions to and fro, though in a manner that I think is pretty obvious. As I may have mentioned earlier, the vibrant royal palace of Zamunda represents the kind of opulence and wealth that Akeem was brought up in and is tired of, while the snow-drenched borough of Queens represents the exact opposite of that, a cold indifference place where you have to work hard for everything. The music, though perhaps typical for the time, also helps to convey a warmly jovial atmosphere. Of course, the actual comedy is what keeps the film afloat, along with Murphy’s often booming voice.

Sadly, however, the film is the last great film in Eddie Murphy’s career, but you could say it’s his royal flush. Enduringly hilarious, charmingly magnetic, teeming with personality and replete with great scenes, it’s a good example of a warm comedy film done right, very much unlike the dull, unoriginal, and painfully unfunny comedies of today.

  • Score: 92%
  • Grade: A

When the Wind Blows (1986)

When_the_Wind_Blows_1986Based on a graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, When the Wind Blows is one of the more interesting films of the 1980’s, both in terms of its concept and the way in which it had been executed. In a time when the threat of nuclear war loomed over our shoulders, this film, made with the same team that brought you The Snowman, offered a bleak, realistic portrayal of what might have happened if the nuclear bomb were dropped.

The film tells this story through the perspective of a retired English couple. Jim and Hilda Bloggs live in a tidy cottage in rural Sussex, while Jim keeps reading the newspapers and listening to the radio to keep track of the deteriorating international situation. Much to his wife’s dismay, he prepares for the worst as instructed by the famous Protect and Survive pamphlets. Even after the bomb strikes and the fallout takes effect, the Bloggs couple remain adamant that they will survive the war as they did four decades prior.

The story starts off on a fairly calm tone, but as the film progresses, it quickly becomes a picture of stoic British optimism gradually descending into bleak pessimism, for even as Jim and Hilda continue struggling to the bitter end, their efforts merely see them waiting for the inevitable. The ending leaves what happens next to your imagination. For all we know, they may well have survived, but it’s likely that they don’t.

The film certainly takes an uncompromising approach, and it captures not only the visceral horror of what was then the hypothetical worst-case scenario, but also the human drama that is there continued perseverance, with a healthy dose of that quintessentially British “keep calm and carry on” mentality. Interestingly enough, Jim and Hilda Bloggs are the only two characters with speaking roles, and they are fittingly placed in the centre of the story.

I honestly liked these characters a lot, and it’s not because of their idealism. That’s to be expected. What I liked about them was that, no matter how misguided they may have been, they kept going until the bitter end, and they kept their cool along the way. That, to me, demonstrates a lot of character that I feel sorely needs to be promoted more in our culture. I also liked the humour and lively character that the two characters often demonstrated, and I felt that I could empathise with Jim Bloggs in some way (namely the fact that he always keeps abreast of world affairs).

The film also demonstrates a very charming style of hand-drawn animation, but I would say that it’s the darker and more experimental counterpart to The Snowman. I say this because it combines traditional hand-drawn animation with stop-motion animation (the objects in the Bloggs’ home rarely move, but are animated with stop-motion techniques when the do), and sometimes including real life footage, which adds to the bleak, sometimes haunting atmosphere that the film evokes. To add to this, the film opens in a very positive tone, to the tune of David Bowie’s song of the name (“When the Wind Blows” is a Bowie track that remains one of my personal favourites), and slowly progressing towards the bleak futility of the Bloggs’ death throes.

There have been many films that expressed the futility and horror of nuclear war, some of which were apparently shocking enough to have given people nightmares when they were new, but this film conveyed is in a way that it remains emotionally resonant. It’s a powerful and brilliant work of art that I feel is sorely underappreciated.

  • Score: 85%
  • Grade: A

The Devils (1971)

THE DEVILS - American Poster 1When I first heard of the film, I somehow thought it was going to be one of those Satanic horror films, but after reading into it I found myself more interested, and then I actually got the chance to see it. If you came in thinking this was a horror film, you’ve probably come to the wrong film, but it’s an even better film than I thought it would be. Dismissed by some as “distasteful” and “offensive” in its time (to the point that it was actually banned in 17 local authorities in Britain), the film is now regarded as one of Ken Russell’s best films (behind Women in Love, which I have yet to see myself), and I’d say that reputation is well-deserved.

Set in 1634, this is essentially a historical film that tells the story of Urbain Grandier, a Catholic well-regarded priest who is apparently known for ignoring his vow of celibacy. However, he is the object of the obsessions of Sister Jeanne des Agnes, a neurotic abbess who suffers from severe scoliosis. Her jealousy winds up driving her insane, and when inadvertently accuses Grandier of withcraft, she invites the zealous intervention of opportunistic church and government officials, eventually bringing about the demise of the man she was so obsessed with.

At first, the story didn’t seem to go anywhere, but then as it unfolds, the true madness of the film unravels, and it made for a captivating tale of fanaticism, and the sweeping paranoia of the age it was set in. I find that this film is also a very effective demonstration of how paranoia can be exploited by those who want to advance their agendas of power. All the while, it also plays out a tale of frustrated desires, as demonstrated by Sister Jeanne and her convent’s descent into madness, and their apparent cooperation with a clearly perverted “witch hunter”.

The performances are what carry the film with great talent. Oliver Reed gives a somewhat villainous yet incredibly charismatic performance as Urbain Grandier. He has the strange ability to seem both sinister and honourable at the same time, but Reed’s hour of power is saved for the last moments of the film, as he stands up against the people judging him even if he knows there’s no hope for him. Vanessa Redgrave also gave a magnificent performance as the salaciously insane abbess, and the supporting cast all deserve a standing ovation for their performance.

The film also sports a peculiarly opulent visual style. Derek Jarman’s modernistic white-tiled city will undoubtedly seem like an odd choice for a film set in 17th century France, but I like the design choice. There’s also a number of props that stand out, like the wheel with a corpse chained to it, the archaic wheel mechanism used to chip at the wall in Loudun, and the opening dance scene. The film is as much a visual trip as it is a hysteric fiesta, though the music score, for the most part, is quite sombre. The music generally seems to blend into the background of the film itself.

In conclusion, I contend that The Devils is an artistic triumph, stretching the limits of what could be shown on film. Laden with symbolism and lurid expressions of zeal, the film is a brilliant expression of the extremes of belief, and how they feed into frenzied paranoia. I just wish that I could get my hands on the uncut version.

  • Score: 87%
  • Grade: A

Dredd (2012)

Dredd2012PosterThe idea of a new Judge Dredd movie was very promising back in 2012, because as far I knew, the last movie based on the comic book character apparently must have been so bad that they’ll almost never show it on TV (at least in the UK). That being said, Dredd is a very different kind of comic book adaptation, with none of the idiotic pretensions you’ll find in Marvel of DC. Instead, it’s a straightforward, focused, and hard-hitting action film, and the end result is a film so outstanding that 152,000 fans want a TV show based on it.

The story is based loosely on the 2000 A.D. comic strip, but a few new characters and concepts. At the very beginning and end of the film, Dredd himself narrates everything you need to know about the story, which plays out in a giant concrete metropolis riddled with crime, with the only force of order being the Judges, who act as judge, jury and executioner. In the film, Dredd accompanies a new recruit with psychic abilities on a homocide case in a 200-storey apartment building, and are forced to deal with the ruling drug lord Ma-Ma.

Clocking in at only 95 minutes, the film is refreshingly straightforward, with a plot that moves at a fast and violent pace. The premise is a bit like the original Die Hard film, except Dredd uses this to illustrate just how big of a criminal problem exists in the world that Judge Dredd inhabits. As the story is told from the perspective of Judge Dredd, the film also had the opportunity to delve into Dredd’s character, but it seems to me that Dredd does the total opposite of what a character should do in a film. Normally in a work of fiction, you have characters how grow and develop over the course of the story, but Dredd doesn’t to do that. Dredd’s character remains static for the whole film.

However, thanks to Karl Urban’s solid performance as Dredd, this is turned into an advantage rather than a liability. In fact, Urban’s performance perfectly conveys the kind of character Judge Dredd should be, a hard-edged, uncompromising law enforcer that no criminal wants to mess with. Olivia Thirlby also performs well as the new recruit. At times, she seems quite cold in terms of personality, but she’s an engaging character, and one with everything to prove. Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey also shines in the film, but I was kind of disappointed at the fact that she’s a pretty aloof antagonist, distant from her surroundings.

The world of Dredd immediately comes across as a different kind of futuristic setting. It presents a gritty, down-to-earth vision of the future, but a lot of it resembles a more contemporary setting. I guess the producers weren’t interesting in something too far-fetched, and to their credit, the world of Judge Drudd packs quite a visual punch. The special effects are also worth mentioning as well. Certain points of the story run in slow motion, perhaps to illustrate the effects of the fictional Slo-Mo drug, a plot device within the film. This tends to give those scenes a dreamlike quality that starkly contrasts the rest of the film.

If the film is notable for anything, its the copious level of violence on display. Dredd is so violent it puts some of the 80’s action films to shame, and it’s often taken to ridiculous levels (with some characters getting skinned by the film’s villain before being dropped off the top of a high-rise building). It’s certainly an intense film, but while the violence can be a bit much for some, I think it’s another way of illustrating the kind of world the film is set in, and Dredd as a character. It certainly delivers one hell of an action-packed experience.

All in all, I’d say this film was the perfect way to introduce Judge Dredd to a newer generation of cinemagoers, as well as it being an outstanding action film in general. With talk of a Judge Dredd TV series going around, I’d say Dredd makes an excellent candidate for a TV series, since there’s still a lot that the film could have expanded on, but regardless, Dredd is an amazing action film on its own.

  • Score: 85%
  • Grade: A

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

ThisisspinaltapposterBy 1984, rock and metal had become so big that a new kind of culture had taken shape. This was the culture of hard rock and heavy metal that had been so embraced by rock fans at the time (and in the present day to some extent), and that was captured brilliantly and memorably in this film, even if it offers a rather glib portrayal of its subject matter.

The film concerns a fictional film director named Marty di Bergi (played ironically by the actual director) who follows his passion and makes a “rockumentary” about a seasoned heavy metal band named Spinal Tap, who by this point had made thirteen albums and are now embarking on a US tour to promote their next album. Along the way, the director meets the band’s long-suffering manager, and watches as the band sees through several mishaps as it struggles to make a foothold in the rock world, though a lot that is essentially the band’s fault.

The film spares no effort in lampooning the conventions of hard rock and heavy metal bands at the time, and also various attitudes towards the music scene. The film’s well-written plot shows you pretty much everything you need to know about the music industry of the time, even if it relied on the stereotypical image of metal bands. That being said, the film is more about the legendarily outlandish behaviour of rock stars, and the often hagiographic treatment of rock stars at the time.

As a band, Spinal Tap is shown as a competent, yet immature group of men who make decisions that they can’t really justify (like the famous amplifier that goes up to eleven), though for this film, it’s probably good that they aren’t a serious band. In fact, they’re a fun bunch of actors, sporting mock English accents for the role of a legendary rock band. Of course it’s the performance that’s ultimately more important, and this film is more known for its myriad of memorable moments and quotes. One of my favourites is the scene where there appeared to be a Stonehenge monument on stage that was in danger of being crushed.

Speaking of that, the producers did a very good job at presenting the film as a realistic rockumentary. If this were 1984, I would have thought that Spinal Tap were a real band. The writers certainly made the effort to write actual rock songs for the film, and even old-style music videos for the band’s daffy 60’s phase. The film is almost like a rock show, but with the band dancing madly on the lip of a volcano. The film’s documentary-style approach also lends a bit of realism to the film, and it makes the experience more enjoyable.

Of course, that shouldn’t distract from the real drive of the film. The film’s great humour comes from the band’s constant struggle to make it big, and their attempts to reason their way around it. For music fans such as myself, whether you’re into rock or not, I’d say the best part of the film is getting invested in this fictional band that, despite frequent mishaps (both on and off-stage) and the scorn of critics, still keeps going strong, always optimistic that their big break will come one day.

  • Score: 86%
  • Grade: A

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Waltz_with_Bashir_PosterFew other films can claim to be anything like this film, a great experiment in the art of animation. Based on the personal experiences of the director, this film attempts to explore the horrors of being involved in war, but it also does more than that. It shows war from both perspectives, though mainly the perspective of the soldier attempting to regain his memory, delving in the ugly history of the war he was involved in.

The film is an animated documentary, and while certainly not the first film, it’s definitely unique in terms of its style, subject matter, and realism. The director of the film, Ari Folman, served as a soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces in 1982, when he fought during the Lebanon War. For some reason, he has no memory of his experiences of the war, and so he spends the film attempting to uncover his memories of the war though conversation with some old friends, and other Israelis who were present in Beirut at the time. His journey eventually leads him to recall his memories the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, and the reason he forgot them to begin with.

Folman’s journey in the film is a very compelling one, the kind that shows a frank and earthy composure in the dark regions of the film’s subject matter. The interviews are essentially how the plot moves forward, and they were quite fascinating. Thanks to the subtitles, English-language viewers can get a glimpse of the real character that shines through in this film. Of course, as the film goes on, it becomes more about the war than the man who fought in it, and perhaps inevitably so.

The film’s style of animation is perhaps the most striking thing about the film. Some have mistaken it as example of rotoscoping, a technique where animation is drawn over live footage. While there is actual footage at the end of the film (which I assume was put there for dramatic effect), the animators never drew over it. The animation was created almost like a Flash animation, though I believe there is more to it than simply that (having used the software as an iMedia student, I don’t believe Adobe Flash has the right tools to make a feature film). In fact, the film uses classic animation and 3D technologies as well as Flash animation, and these technologies are utilized brilliantly.

The film also displays an incredible degree of realism in terms of both its subject matter and the art style, wherein the characters look a lot like real people. I’ll admit that had the film not been animated in the way that it had been, it might not have been as interesting, but regardless, the end result works very well as a captivating tour de force. Superbly innovative as a documentary, but I like to think of it as more than that. Waltz with Bashir offers what is perhaps one of the most original film experiences in recent history, and one of the most brutally honest films I’ve seen so far.

  • Score: 86%
  • Grade: A

Sin City (2005)

SincitypostercastFor long time, I’ve held a certain interest in the idea of the anthology film. The idea of a film showing several stories tied together by a single premise is a concept I’ve favoured ever since seeing the classic animated sci-fi/fantasy anthology Heavy Metal. Done right, the anthology film can tell stronger stories than a film with a traditionally linear story, and this film definitely nailed it. With the film’s dark, unpretentiously gritty tone and the hard-hitting performance of its characters, the world of Frank Miller’s own comics is viscerally brought to life in a way that hadn’t quite been seen before on screen, or ever will again.

The film is set in Basin City, a fictional city in the American West, where crime, depravity and murder are apparently rampant, but not as much as corruption, which lies at the heart of all three of the film’s main segments (“That Yellow Bastard”, “The Hard Goodbye” and “The Big Fat Kill” respectively). Basin City is apparently run by the corrupt Roark family, who run the city with a tight grip and cover up any criminal activities that indict them in any way.

The film is split into four stories, although two of them are split into two parts across the start and end of the film, making for a total of six segments, the first of which is a proof of concept segment that was made to persuade the writer of the comics to get behind the project. It certainly made for a good way to introduce the film, and one hell of a promotion. The other stories are simply impressive. They evoke a sense of dreary decadence and raw dread in a compelling neo-noir narrative, and one of the tightest of the kind.

Of course, what makes Sin City a great film is its characters – it’s gritty, ugly, mostly amoral characters. The main protagonists – played by Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen respectively – narrate their own stories, and in a way, they tell you more about the world they live in than anyone else, and they give powerful performances. Bruce Willis’ character is a white knight in a cesspool striving to do the right thing even if it costed his life, Mickey Rourke’s character is a crass street tough who kills his way to avenging the murder of a prostitute he loved, and Clive Owen’s character is an ordinary man caught up in a war between prostitutes and the mob. These characters are the kind that tell their own tale, and it’s hard not to get drawn into their world. The other characters perform their roles brilliantly as well, some less so than others, but I digress.

The film is also famous for its unique style. It looks like a film noir with a distinct graphic novel style, with only occasional use of colour to draw attention to certain characters. The most common colours you’ll find are black, white and grey, and much of the visual effect comes from stark backgrounds and high contrasts. The visuals are very striking indeed, even though the special effects sometimes suffer because of the film’s style. The film is clearly intended to be a graphic novel on screen, almost like a literal transition from page to film, and for a film to pull this off successfully is amazing. It presented a whole new artistic avenue for film as a medium, at least for its time anyway. There would be other films that tried to imitate the style, but none were as successful in its implementation.

Sin City isn’t for the faint-hearted. It can be unsettling for some, but its unique storytelling is more than worth it. It’s one of the few comic book adaptations that successfully balances style with substances. It was striking, it was dark, it was hard-hitting, it was sometimes disturbing, but above all, it was fun.

  • Score: 94%
  • Grade: A